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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Your attention, please... ladies and gentlemen...

Farewell to Bob Sheppard, the public address announcer for more than 50 years at the one and only original Yankee Stadium. As a kid I was lucky enough to be taken to that hallowed place to see Mantle, Maris, Berra, Ford, and so many other greats play the game. For entertainment, there was somebody playing the organ, and for the announcements and lineups, Mr. Sheppard. With beautiful diction and impressive poise, he was like a talented reader of sacred scripture in a great cathedral. He lived to be 99 years old.

Comments (6)

The Voice of God.

I loved when he would solemnly announce that the game was being played under protest.

I miss the way he said, "Fans entering the playing field will be removed from the ballpark and are SUBJECT TO ARREST." They had that playing on a loop outside the Stadium in the 1990s.

That organist was likely the late Eddie Layton. I'm not sure how far back Eddie went with the Yankees, but he and Sheppard used to have a routine for getting out of Dodge after the game. They'd be packed up. Last out: race to elevator, press the button, get to car, good-bye. Had it down to a science.

Who knows if we crossed paths back in the day? You clearly had more experiences as a kid at Yankee Stadium but
I had some legendary New York aunts who thought an American boy growing up overseas had to see certain things, and one of these was Yankee Stadium. I loved watching the games and listening to my aunts talk serious baseball.
The embarrassing part of the story is later when I took my girlfriend to New York in the mid-eighties, and said, "You've never been here and I've been here lots of times. Let's go see what you want to see."
Then I spotted an Old Timers' Game at Yankee Stadium and made the case that she really had to see that. She wasn't thrilled, but thankfully, she went for it.
I searched the Net for a list of the players there that day but I couldn't find it. I know Phil Neikro pitched the regular game and the joke was he should pitch for the old-timers too.
I remember being awestruck that Bobby Thomson was there: "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"

But the most mind-blowing part was when Joe Dimaggio made a speech from the exact spot where Lou Gehrig said, "Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth."

I confess that with Joe one of the thoughts in my head was, "Wow, there's an actual living breathing male who nailed Marilyn Monroe."

My priorities were a little more physical back then.

Anyway, this announcer and every part of the experience at Yankee Stadium was great except for when we came down a ramp and merged right into 100 really drunk guys singing, "New York, New York" at the top of their lungs. That was scary.

You know Jack, I was born in the Bronx and lived for my first six months on McClean Avenue, literally across the street from Yonkers. McClean was the border.

From '69 onward until the renovation, my dad's company had a box just above and a bit to the first base side of the announcer's booth. We could watch Rizzuto and company announce the game. We were also in primo foul ball territory. They would role up the net right to our box. I still have two of them signed by Rizzuto. There was an old "cop" (stadium security) who would traffic the balls to Rizzuto for us. I have heard that Rizzuto was not the nicest guy sometimes, but he was always great with us.

And, of course, I remember Bob Shephard. On bat day, hat day, ball day, old timers' day and every other game day. Glad I was there. It's interesting looking back through the years today - my 49th birthday - and seeing history.

Crazy Eddie

Derek Jeter is still announced for his at-bats by a recording from Mr. Sheppard.

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